China Unicom and China Telecom have reportedly been allocated spectrum that can be used to offer FDD-LTE services.
This would go counter to the belief that the Chinese authorities would be biased towards the domestic TDD-LTE standard championed by China Mobile.
While China Telecom’s spectrum lies in the 2.1GHz band, China Unicom’s is in the 1.8GHz band. Market leader China Mobile will deploy TD-LTE services via the 2.6GHz band.
Unicom has considered FDD-LTE to be its long term strategy, but earlier this year confirmed that it would also trial TD-LTE – apparently based on the belief that the “indigenous” FDD strain would be favoured over its globally-developed rival. China Telecom meanwhile is planning to deploy a “hybrid LTE network” using both strains.
In addition, China Unicom and China Telecom are reportedly considering leasing TD-LTE capacity from China Mobile. This would save the operators money on infrastructure as well as supporting the Chinese-developed LTE strain.
While FDD-LTE has been used in more global deployments, TD-LTE has the backing of China Mobile as well as numerous other major operators. These include Japan’s SoftBank and India’s Bharti Airtel. This marks a departure from the Chinese-developed 3G strain, TD-SCDMA, which did not catch on internationally.
The allocation of spectrum appears to have benefitted China Unicom more than China Telecom, as the 1.8GHz band is already widely used for FDD-LTE, meaning that infrastructure and terminals are already in place.